Learn. Discover. Grow.
Interested in applying to the USU Biology Graduate Program?
Wonderful! Graduate training is an integral part of our Mission. We offer M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Biology, Ecology, or Neuroscience. Research in our department spans all areas of biology, including biogeochemistry, cell signaling, conservation biology, ecology, animal behavior, evolution and systematics, genomics, insect biology and pest management, neurobiology, microbiology, molecular plant physiology, molecular and synthetic biology, physiology, plant and insect pathology, and public health.
All our students receive a guaranteed five years (PhD) and three years (MS) support package that includes salary, tuition waiver, and partial fees/insurance during the Academic Year, during which time they receive training and mentorship in research, teaching, as well as myriad opportunities for professional development. In addition, students can fund their research and education through competitive internal scholarships and grants. We also offer workshops geared specifically for graduate students to help them prepare grant proposals for external funding sources, like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.
Our graduate students are active members of the Biology department. There are plenty of opportunities to become involved in department committees and student government. We are also deeply committed to fostering an inclusive and equitable community. There is a place for everyone in USU Biology, including first generation students and those from underrepresented backgrounds. There are a lot of resources available at USU and the surrounding community to support you during your time in Logan, UT. Some of these include:
Utah State University
- Center for Intersectional Gender Studies & Research
- Latinx Cultural Center
- SACNAS - USU Chapter (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science
- Inclusion Center
- Graduate Students of Color Association
- Interfaith Initiative
- Nontraditional Student Association
- Queer Student Alliance
- Native American Student Council
- Disabled and Neurodiverse Aggies
- Undocumented Student Support (Aggies Dream)
If you have any questions about this process, please feel free to contact our Graduate Program Coordinator, Metta Ray (firstname.lastname@example.org) or our graduate student liaison, Skylar McDaniel (email@example.com).
Step 1. Identify potential major advisors
When? Typically, early Fall
Graduate programs at USU Biology are highly centered around advisor-student relationships. Acceptance into the USU Biology Graduate Program requires a faculty member agreeing to advise the student. Identifying and contacting a potential advisor is thus a critical part of the application process.
Once you have identified one or more potential advisors, send an email to introduce yourself. It is a good idea to include a CV and brief statement of interest. Let the potential advisor know why you are interested in their research and how you see yourself fitting into their lab. You could suggest a meeting to learn more about their research, describe your interests and goals, and get a sense of whether you could work well together. Here is a helpful guide for what to look for in a potential advisor. Keep in mind that graduate training is a highly individualized path that will be determined largely by interactions between you and your advisor. It is a good idea to make sure that you have a similar vision for research and could work well together.
Even faculty who are not actively recruiting for a specific project may be willing to work with potential students to find funding opportunities. It can’t hurt to reach out to introduce yourself, as these faculty may keep you in mind for future opportunities as they arise, even if they are not accepting students at this time. Here is a full list of Biology faculty with links to their research websites or posters.
Step 2. Complete the application
When? Typically, late fall (December 15 is the deadline for full funding consideration)
Once you have identified a potential advisor, and they have encouraged you to apply, it is time to complete your application through the USU School of Graduate Studies.
Don’t meet the minimum requirements? Don’t worry too much about that for now. In some circumstances, these can be waived. Your potential advisor may have a sense of how likely you are to receive a waiver.
Note that we no longer require GRE scores, but you will still have the option to upload them if you would like.
Great! USU Biology has graduate students from across the globe. You will need to complete a few extra steps during the application process, but the Office of Global Engagement is here to help you. You will need to submit some additional documents.
Although you will fill out the standard USU application, the Biology department asks for a Statement of Purpose (SOP) to evaluate your fit for the potential advisor, preparedness for graduate study, and likelihood of success in graduate school at USU Biology. When asked for the SOP on the application form, you will be given the following prompt:
Please describe why you wish to attend graduate school in the USU Biology Department. As applicable, please address the following areas as they relate to your interests and experiences: Research Potential and Preparedness (e.g., short & long-term goals, alignment of goals with the Department and potential advisor, experience with independent research and scientific communication, relevant skills, teaching & mentoring, innovation & creativity, planning & organization, teamwork); Persistence & Commitment (e.g., leadership/community involvement, perseverance, independent learning including non-traditional formats, formation and use of a support network); Individuality (appraisal of strengths & weaknesses; personal and professional ethics).
Letters of recommendation are an important tool for us to evaluate your fit for USU Biology. It may be helpful to let them know why you want to attend USU and tell them this is what we will ask them to describe in their letter:
As applicable, please address the following areas as they may relate to your knowledge of the applicant: Research Potential and Preparedness (e.g., short & long-term goals, alignment of goals with the Department and potential advisor, experience with independent research and scientific communication, relevant skills, teaching & mentoring, innovation & creativity, planning & organization, teamwork); Persistence & Commitment (e.g., leadership/community involvement, perseverance, independent learning including non-traditional formats, formation and use of a support network); Individuality (appraisal of strengths & weaknesses; personal and professional ethics).
This is like a resume but is more specifically geared toward academic preparedness. There are many styles of CVs. You might find this guide helpful in preparing yours.
Your application will not be evaluated until we have received each component. Please check in with your letter writers to ensure they submit their letters on time. Fee waivers may be available under certain circumstances. If you require a fee waiver, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief justification (1-2 sentences) for the request and the name of the potential faculty advisor to whom you are applying to work with.
Step 3. Visit us!
When? Typically, mid-February
After reviewing all the completed applications, faculty members will be asked who they would like to invite to the USU Weekend Visit. The Graduate Program Committee will then send invitations to prospective students, depending on the total number of slots available. The Weekend Visit is an excellent opportunity for you to become familiar with USU, the Department of Biology, and the surrounding area. You will typically stay with a graduate student in the department so that you will get a taste of what life is like living as a graduate student in Logan, UT. There will be several department events, student events, and even opportunities for recreational activities. You will also get a chance to have short one-on-one conversations with several faculty members in the department and plenty of time with your prospective lab. You can find more information about the Weekend Visit here. Invitations are typically sent in mid-January.
Importantly, attending the Weekend Visit is not a requirement for acceptance. There are several scenarios under which you may end up being accepted to the program even if you are not invited to the Weekend Visit. For example, you may already be familiar with USU and do not need or wish to attend, there may be fewer spots available for the Weekend Visit than spots available to accept students. We encourage most of our prospective students to attend the Weekend Visit, but it is not necessary for acceptance to the program.
Step 4. Await notification
When? Typically, early March
Faculty members will evaluate each applicant to their lab according to a holistic evaluation rubric (below). They will also select at least one other faculty member to meet with and evaluate the applicant according to the rubric. This will likely be someone that the prospective student met with during the Weekend Visit. If the applicant did not attend the Weekend Visit, they may schedule a separate interview via zoom or phone. The Graduate Program Committee will meet to determine how many applicants can be accepted, based on funding availability. The final list of candidates recommended for acceptance will be sent to the Department Head and the Graduate School for approval. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out as soon as possible in March. The notification will include details of your funding package. If accepted, you will have until April 15 to declare your intent to enroll the following Fall term. New students are typically expected to arrive in Logan by August 15.